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Ban the Box Laws By State

Criminal background check laws vary by state. Stay up to date on the laws in your area.

States and cities across the country have implemented Ban the Box or criminal background check legislation in recent years. Now, federal lawmakers are considering a law which would encourage holdout states to pass Ban the Box bills themselves.

Recently, St Louis joined the list of cities with its own law, while New York City and Illinois updated their legislation. To help employers, we’ve created a guide to criminal background check laws by state and city for 2021.

One in Three American Adults Have a Criminal History

In the past, having a criminal history prevented some potentially great job candidates from being hired, regardless of how long ago the crime took place, how minor the infraction was, or how good of a fit they might be for the role. When you consider that an estimated 70 million Americans—one in three Americans who are of working age—have some kind of criminal history, it’s not difficult to understand how requiring a squeaky-clean record could become problematic for some jobs.

Even People Without Convictions Can Be Discriminated Against

Many criminal background checks fail to distinguish between someone being arrested or charged and actually being convicted. Potential employees are routinely asked on job applications if they’ve “ever been arrested for a serious crime.” Not if they have a conviction history…simply arrested. It’s easy to see how checking “yes” on this box could be used to take some candidates out of the running for a job.

This is exactly the reason why many states and localities are passing criminal background check laws to protect job hunters who have a criminal record from being immediately disqualified during the hiring process.

What is a “Ban the Box” Law?

A “ban the box” law is a criminal background check law that prohibits employers from requesting a potential employee’s criminal history on a job application in certain states and localities. Some laws forbid a company from asking if the candidate was ever sentenced for a crime until a specific time in the hiring process, such as during an interview or after a conditional offer of employment.

Ban the Box Is Good for Children and Families

Colorado is one of the most recent states with laws requiring employers to ban the box with its Colorado Chance to Compete Act (CCCA). They, like other states that have implemented the ban, found that,

“Previous involvement with the criminal justice system often creates a significant barrier to employment in that applicants with criminal histories are less likely to be considered for an available job when that information is included on an initial job application… Children and families suffer when people with criminal histories are unable to work or work at jobs that are below their potential given their education and skills….”

Additionally, including a criminal history question on an application often results in disparate impact discrimination. Because Latino and African American men are arrested and convicted at a higher rate than Caucasian men, an employment application asking about criminal history has a disproportionate impact on them.

Credit Checks Can Also Be Considered a Discriminatory Act

Several states also have laws that prevent an employer from using a person’s credit history to make employment decisions. A credit history background check can also be lumped under “disparate impact discrimination” as it can have a negative impact on women and minorities. These two groups are more likely to experience bankruptcies or have poor credit reports. Generally, states that have credit check restrictions allow for one if the job in question is for a financial institution or where the applicant would otherwise have access to financial data.

Ban the Box Laws: By States and Cities and Counties

Here’s a quick snap shot of the U.S. and which states have banned the box. For a deeper dive into criminal background check laws by state, check out the chart below.

state laws for ban the box
State Municipality Covered Employers Notes 
Alabama  No Law  
Alaska  No Law  
Arizona  No Law  
Arkansas  No Law  
California  Employers with 5+ employees  No criminal background check until after a job offer (See recent FAQs)  
 Compton  Contractors doing business with Compton  No criminal background check until after a job offer  
 Los Angeles  Any employer with 10+ employees  No criminal background check until after a job offer  
 Richmond  Private sector employers with 10+ employees that have contracts with Richmond regardless of where employer is based   
 San Francisco  Employers with 5+ employees  No criminal background check until after a job offer  
Colorado  Effective 9/1/19 for employers with 11+ employees; effective on or after 9/1/21 for all employers  
Connecticut  All employers No criminal history question on job applications with some exceptions  
 Hartford  Contractors doing business with Hartford  No background check until after job offer  
 New Haven  Contractors doing business with New Haven  No background check until after job offer  
Delaware  No Law  
District of Columbia  Employers with 11+ employees No background check until after job offer 
Florida  No Law  
Georgia  All employers  No background check until after job offer. Then – the applicant must be provided with the opportunity to dispute the information in their history. Additionally, citizens have the right to expunge misdemeanors and non-violent felonies four years after a sentence is complete.
Hawaii  All private employers No criminal background check until after job offer. Then, employers may only inquire about felony convictions within the past seven years and five years misdemeanors, excluding periods of incarceration. 
Idaho  No Law  
Illinois  Private employers with 15+ employees No criminal background check before job interview, or until after job offer if no interview. Job applicants can only be disqualified if a conviction has a “substantial relationship” to the position.  
 Chicago  Private employers with fewer than 15 employees  No criminal background check before job interview, or until after job offer if no interview  
 Cook County  Private employers with fewer than 15 employees  No criminal background check before job interview, or until after job offer if no interview  
Indiana  No Law  
 Indianapolis  Contractors doing business with Indianapolis  Criminal history questions only after first interview  
Iowa  No Law  
 Waterloo Employers with 15 employees or more No criminal background check or inquiry until after a conditional offer of employment. Employers prohibited from considering criminal records including arrests and pending cases; and rejecting candidates with criminal records outside of a legitimate business reason.  
Kansas  No Law  
Kentucky  No Law   
 Louisville  Contractors doing business with Louisville  City may end contracts with companies that do not ban the box  
Louisiana  No Law  
 New Orleans  Contractors doing business with New Orleans  No criminal history questions on job applications  
Maine  All employers No criminal history inquiries on applications or advertisements that a person with a criminal history may not apply. 
Maryland  No Law  
 Baltimore  Employers with 10+ employees  No background check until after job offer  
 Montgomery County  Employers with 15+ employees  No criminal history questions or checks until after first interview  
 Prince George’s County  Employers with 25+ full-time employees  No criminal history questions or checks until after first interview  
Massachusetts  All private employers  No criminal history questions on application. Also bans questions about certain types of crimes later in the hiring process.  
 Boston  Contractors/vendors doing business with Boston   
 Cambridge  Contractors/vendors doing business with Cambridge   
 Worcester  Contractors/vendors doing business with Worcester   
Michigan  Employers with 15+ employees   
 Detroit  Contractors doing business with Detroit when contract is $25,000+  No questions about criminal convictions until interview or qualification  
 Kalamazoo  Contractors doing business with Kalamazoo when contract is $25,000+ or those seeking tax abatement  Must commit to not use criminal history to discriminate  
Minnesota  All private employers No criminal history inquiries on job application with limited exceptions  
Mississippi  No Law  
Missouri  No Law   
 Columbia  All employers in Columbia  No criminal history check until after conditional job offer  
 Kansas City  Private employers with six+ employees  No criminal history check until after job interview  
 St. Louis  Private employers with 10+ employees  No criminal history check until after job interview. When making hiring and promotion decisions based on criminal record, employers must demonstrate that decision is based on all available information. Hiring forms and job advertisements mustn’t exclude applicants based on criminal history. 
Montana  No Law  
Nebraska  No Law  
Nevada  No Law  
New Hampshire  No Law  
New Jersey  Employers with 15+ employees over 20 calendar weeks  Preempts local laws  
New Mexico  All private employers Can consider a conviction after reviewing an application and discussing employment with the applicant  
New York  No Law  
 Buffalo  Private employers with 15+ employees/contractors doing business with Buffalo  No criminal history questions on job applications  
 New York City  All employers with 4+ employees  No criminal background check prior to conditional job offer. On July 29, 2021, Fair Chance legislation will be extended to current employees.    
 Rochester  All employers with 4+ employees and contractors doing business with Rochester  Criminal background check only after initial job interview or conditional job offer  
 Syracuse  City contractors  No background checks until after conditional job offer  
North Carolina  No Law  
North Dakota  No Law  
Ohio  No Law   
Oklahoma  No Law  
Oregon  All private employers  Illegal to exclude applicant from an interview solely due to past criminal conviction  
 Portland  Employers with 6+ employees  No criminal background check prior to conditional job offer  
Pennsylvania  No Law   
 Philadelphia  All employers with at least one employee in Philadelphia  No criminal background check prior to conditional job offer. (As of April 1, 2021, protections are extended to gig workers and independent contractors.)    
 Pittsburgh  Contractors/vendors doing business with Pittsburgh  No criminal history check before applicant is deemed otherwise qualified  
Rhode Island  Employers with 4+ employees No criminal background check on job applications  
South Carolina  No Law  
South Dakota  No Law  
Tennessee  No Law  
Texas  No Law  
 Austin  Employers with 15+ employees  No criminal background check prior to conditional job offer  
Utah  No Law  
Vermont  All private employers  No criminal history questions on job application  
Virginia No Law   
Washington  All private employers No criminal history check before applicant is deemed otherwise qualified  
 Seattle  All employers with 1+ employees  Must have a legitimate business reason to automatically exclude applicants with arrest or conviction records  
 Spokane  All private employers  No criminal history questions before a job interview  
West Virginia  No Law   
Wisconsin  No Law  
 Madison  Contractors doing business with Madison on contracts worth $25,000+  No criminal history questions or background checks until after conditional job offer  
Wyoming  No Law  

How Paycor Helps

We’re proud to keep more than 30,000 organizations informed about and compliant with federal and state laws and regulations. Want to see how Paycor can help you mitigate risk? Check out our article on hiring compliance, or talk to a Paycor representative.

The information provided in our chart is for educational purposes only; it is not legal advice. Always check regulations to help ensure compliance.